What is a Suppository?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Suppositories are a type of medication that is in the form of a plug or capsule and inserted directly into the rectum or the vagina. While most people think of these as medications to deal with constipation, the fact is that there are a number of different health conditions that can be treated using medicine in this form.

The shape of a suppository is usually in the form of a small plug.
The shape of a suppository is usually in the form of a small plug.

In shape, the typical suppository is usually in the form of a small plug. The exterior coating is formulated to begin dissolving after insertion. Body heat plays a role in triggering the breakdown of the medication. As the suppository dissolves, the medication is released and absorbed into the surrounding tissue.

Suppositories may help relieve constipation.
Suppositories may help relieve constipation.

Along with constipation, there are also products designed to help with issues such as hemorrhoids. In this instance, the medication releases a soothing moisturizer or vasoconstrictor that can help ease the pain of the condition. People with trouble swallowing can also use products of this type to receive anything from aspirin to medications that help with high blood pressure.

A suppository may be inserted directly into the rectum.
A suppository may be inserted directly into the rectum.

A vaginal suppository is often helpful in treating a range of gynecological health issues, including the presence of candidiasis. As with the products designed for insertion into the rectum, these dissolve gradually and allow the medication to come in contact with the surrounding tissue and also absorb into the bloodstream.

Vaginal suppositories can be used to treat yeast infections.
Vaginal suppositories can be used to treat yeast infections.

While most people are familiar with the glycerin suppositories used to deal with temporary constipation, not everyone is aware of the potential side effects of using this or any similar product. For people with allergies, a glycerin suppository may cause a great deal of discomfort by irritating the tissue making up the vagina or the rectum. In addition, too frequent use of these medications can interfere with the natural rhythms of the body, causing a dependency. There is also the possibility of a negative reaction to the specific medication contained in the plug.

In general, it is a good idea to only make use of suppositories under the direction of a physician. Your doctor can provide instructions on how to properly insert the suppository, such as wearing a rubber glove to prevent direct contact between the fingernail and the sensitive tissue found in the interior area of the rectum or vagina. The doctor can also advise on the frequency of use, and any possible side effects relevant to the type of medication contained in the plug. Make sure to report any discomfort or side effects that may develop immediately. This will allow the physician to determine how to proceed with the treatment of your particular ailment.

Some suppositories are made to be inserted into the vagina.
Some suppositories are made to be inserted into the vagina.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


That's interesting that people that have trouble swallowing can take medication in suppository form. I've never heard of anything like an acetaminophen suppository, but I'm sure it exists!

I have a good friend who has trouble swallowing pills, so she just gets most of her medicine in liquid form. Luckily for her she can swallow food and liquid fine, it's just pills that get her. I personally think she might have a mental block about it or something.

Still, it sounds like a good alternative for people who are sick and have trouble swallowing anything, not just pills.


Wow, I can't imagine accidentally discovering an allergy to any kind of enema suppository. As if just being constipated wasn't bad enough, then you'd be dealing with an allergic reaction too! That definitely doesn't sound like it would be comfortable.

I've personally used those glycerin suppositories as a child with no allergy problems. I used to get constipated all the time when I was a kid, but as an adult, I never have that problem. At least I know that if I do, I can use a suppository for quick relief.


@wavy58 - You bring up a good point about using suppositories: what goes in, must come out. So it's definitely a good idea to use vaginal suppositories before bed, like you said. I know whenever I use one to treat a yeast infection, I usually have to wear a pad the next day also.

Anyway, as far as using suppositories for yeast infections, I think you only need to go see a doctor the first time you have a yeast infection. After that, you're usually safe to treat yourself on your own, because you'll be able to recognize the symptoms and you'll know how to use the over the counter medicine.


I have used a vaginal suppository before to treat a yeast infection. You can buy them over the counter, and you can get either the one dose, three dose, or seven dose variety.

The packet comes with a plastic syringe for inserting the suppository. You are supposed to lie down on your back and hold your knees up to your chest while inserting it.

It is best to lie down for the night after putting in the suppository. This keeps it in place, because if you are up walking around, it will try to fall out, and you won't get the medicine all the way up inside the canal where you need it.


@cloudel – Suppository laxatives do work quickly. I had a movement within ten minutes of inserting one, but I did experience some cramping. Just about any laxative will give you that.

However, it is not good to rely on this type of laxative for regular bowel movements. I have heard that some people who use them all the time have lost control of their bowels and defecate in their underwear without warning.

It's fine to use one every now and then, but not every week. If you have continuing constipation issues, try drinking senna tea. It usually produces a movement within a day, and it doesn't cause any painful cramps.


Has anyone here ever used a laxative suppository? I have been having a lot of problems with constipation, and I've heard that suppositories work much faster than laxatives that you can take by mouth.

Sometimes, I go four days without having a bowel movement. By then, I am really uncomfortable, and sometimes, I have severe abdominal pain because of this.

I've tried swallowing laxative pills, but they give me such terrible cramps and diarrhea that I hate to take them. I'm hoping a suppository wouldn't give me these side effects, and I would be able to get relief much quicker.


I didn't know that a suppository for constipation even existed. The only kind I am familiar with are the ones that treat nausea and vomiting. These are the kind my mother used on me as a child.

I seemed to be a magnet for stomach viruses. At times, I would vomit so often that the only way to keep any medication down was to insert it rectally.

I was all for relief from vomiting, but I really hated the discomfort of having a suppository inserted. My mother would put it in for me, and it would just feel so weird, like it didn't belong there!

It did stop the vomiting, though. That's the only reason I ever let her give me one.

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